Colorado to get $300M from new opioid settlement

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 5:32 PM MDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:22 AM MDT
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DENVER (KKTV) - Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Wednesday the state is set to receive at least $300 million for opioid recovery, treatment, education, and prevention under a new nationwide settlement with some of the country’s top drug manufacturers and distributors.

Weiser said the $26 billion nationwide agreement is with Johnson & Johnson, which manufactured and marketed opioids, and Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, which are three of the nation’s major pharmaceutical distributors.

“The companies have a lot to account for,” Weiser said.

According to the CDC, drug overdose deaths rose by nearly 30 percent during the pandemic in 2020. In Colorado, more than 1,500 people died from an overdose death.

“Today in Colorado, we have about 30 percent of the drug treatment we need and that means that people are suffering,” Weiser said. “We are at a potentially transformative moment. It is our goal to use this settlement and the other ones as part of catalyzing that transformation.”

Colorado is also anticipating about $100 million from opioid settlements with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, and McKinsey & Company.

In order to get the money, Weiser said Colorado has to sign on, along with local governments around the state. Earlier this spring, Weiser visited Colorado Springs to detail what steps local governments have to take.

“Working with our local government partners, we are prepared to create what we believe can be a national model,” Weiser said.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office provided a breakdown of the settlement:

  • The three distributors collectively will pay up to $21 billion over 18 years.
  • Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.
  • The total amounts distributed will be determined by the overall degree of participation by both litigating and non-litigating states and local governments.
  • A substantial majority of the money will be spent on opioid treatment and prevention.

Even though the money won’t be coming all at once, Weiser said he approves of the agreement.

“I don’t believe we can or should spend all the money right away,” he said. “This is an ongoing problem. It took us 25 years to get into this hole. It will take us time to get out of it.”

Under the settlement, the companies involved also have to make changes. According to the Attorney General’s Office, these are court-ordered conditions for Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments and report those pharmacies to state regulators when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of, and report, suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

Johnson & Johnson also has requirements it must follow.

“The agreement requires Johnson & Johnson to stop manufacturing and selling opioids for 10 years, to stop funding or providing grants to third parties for promoting, and to stop lobbying activities related to opioids. Johnson & Johnson must also share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project,” the AG’s Office stated in a news release.

Weiser said the money could start coming to the state within the next year.

“The ability to bring this amount of money, this focus, it’s a once in a generation opportunity. We need to make the most of it,” he said. “This shouldn’t have happened. It didn’t happen in other countries. We’re going to do our best to stop it from happening in any form again, and we’re going to do our best to help those who are suffering.”

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